Painter Benedetto Gennari was born at Cento, Emilia-Romagna, in October 1633 into a dynasty of artists. In 1643 the family moved to Bologna and he remained there until the age of thirty-eight, producing portraits for some of the noble families and religious works for local churches and convents.
From April 1672 to September 1674 Gennari lived in Paris and then moved to England, where James, Duke of York, had recently married an Italian princess, Mary of Modena. Gennari stayed in England for over fourteen years and produced a total of 138 pictures, most of which were commissioned by members of the Royal family. He provided mythologies for the new apartments at Windsor Castle for Charles II; and he decorated the Catholic chapel at Whitehall for James II.
The Revolution of 1688 finished Gennari’s career in England. He left the country and joined the Jacobite court in exile at St Germain-en-Laye in February 1689 where he continued to enjoy the protection of Mary of Modena for a further three years, employed almost exclusively on portraits. Gennari is the only artist who provided a visual record of the Stuart court both at Whitehall and in exile. He returned to Italy in the spring of 1692 and remained in Bologna for the rest of his life. He died in December 1715. The fall of James II had not only terminated his career in England, but also led to the destruction of the Catholic chapels in London that he had decorated.